Back in Coloccini and Gutierrez’s home country, violence overall is still increasing but one improvement in 2011 was only four deaths!
Newcastle United banning non-season ticket holders/members from buying tickets to Newcastle away matches because some daft kids ran on the pitch at Darlington in a friendly, would surely leave your average Argentinian football fan puzzled…as they are dodging the bullets day in day out.
Writing on playthegame.org, Javier Szlifman puts into context football violence in the UK, as compared to the goings on in Argentina.
‘2011 could be seen as a quieter year in Argentinian Football – if you only judge by the annual statistics on casualties. The final list includes ‘only’ four deaths: Diego Malcovick (29 years old), Ramón Aramayo (40 years old), Marcelo Melgar (42 years old) and Sebastián Tejada (27 years old) were the victims who added to the list of 258 dead football supporters since 1924.
Even though the names might be scarce and the number of casualties has gone down compared to earlier years, a different feeling crops up every day: In its varied forms, violence is likely to take place whenever you enter a football stadium in Argentina.
Victims of 2011
Diego Malcovick, a Newell’s Old Boys supporter, was shot in the head during a fight between Newell’s supporters and supporters from Rosario Central on a weekday at a bar in the city of Rosario. He died only hours later and became the fourth casualty of Newell`s supporters in less than a year.
The supporters from this football team recorded another violent episode in June 2011, when a group of people attacked another group with firearms just before the beginning of the match. Miraculously, no one died although the encounter between Newell’s and San Lorenzo, which should have been played a few hours afterwards, was cancelled.
Ramón Aramayo, a San Lorenzo supporter, died in March after being hit by six police officers before entering Vélez Stadium to watch his team play. Eventually, the match was cancelled amid the events.
Marcelo Melgar, a follower of Sarmiento of Gualeguaychú, died after a clash on June 12. A group of fans of the team Unión del Suburbio, playing in the regional league, attacked him after identifying him as supporter of the rival team. He died a few hours later.
Sebastián Tejada, a member of Banfield’s fans, was shot in the head in November after the match between his team and Estudiantes de la Plata. Tejada and another man were on a motorcycle when they were startled by two young men who – after exchanging a few words – shot Tejada in the head and killed him. The match had had to be cancelled because of riots caused by Estudiantes’ supporters, unsatisfied with Estudiantes’ leaders’ decision of no longer giving free tickets to hooligans.
The same old story of Argentinean violence
This violence is not news for the football world of locals. The ‘barras bravas’ term used to refer to groups of Argentinean hooligans started in the 1950s and they have consolidated their hold in the following years. The phenomenon took place the same time as the movement of the notorious English hooligans was taking its first steps.
However, the degree of development that the Argentinean ‘barras bravas’ acquired has gone above that of Great Britain’s. It was probably not until the 1980s that the Argentinean organised supporters consolidated as mafia groups, with their own practices and own organisations and multiple businesses, spread around the football show, always through violent means.
At the beginning of the 1980s the number of victims of violence in the stadiums soared staggeringly, reaching the current figure. An average of five supporters a year has died since the year 2000. Yet, the figure of four deaths in 2011 is noticeably lower than those of previous years. In 2008 six people died, in 2009 eight and in 2010 the number got to 11 casualties.
The daily violence
Nevertheless, the list of deaths in 2011 is not a reflection of the presence of violence in its different forms in Argentinean football. Contrary to what is frequently the case, in the last months, the notorious Argentinean ‘barras bravas’ have been exposed publicly as mafia groups, wrapped-up in their own internal and external hassles. Many of the registered acts of violence in the stadiums are taking place between supporters of the same football team, who fight against the police or among themselves to win over the supporters and strengthen their business.
Last June 26, River’s ‘barra brava’ fulfilled the unfortunate predictions that serious events would take place if the team was relegated. After a match which sealed the path of the team from first to second league, differences were exposed: The well-organised groups of supporters destroyed the facilities of the club and clashed with the police while the rest of the supporters just left sadly due to their team’s bad luck.
In Independiente, another of the most important Argentinean football teams, a group of fans was beaten by barra bravas for protesting against the club management. Some days earlier, the same group of hooligans had assaulted Antonio Mohamed, coach of the team. During the following match, supporters chanted against the barra bravas: “There they are, there they are… those who hit the true supporters”.
By the end of the year, two opposing groups of Boca’s supporters clashed publicly during a football match. Located in two different stands, they threatened each other with chants to see who would remain holding the power of supporters. Both were in the hunt of dark businesses such as re-selling of tickets, visits of tourists, and the multiple privileges awarded to the official and true managers of supporters.’